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Commoner, Barry (28 May 1917–30 September 2012), scientist-activist, biologist, and environmentalist, was born Barry Commoner in Brooklyn, New York, to Isaac (Isador) and Gussie Commoner, Russian immigrants. His uncle, the Slavonic scholar Avrahm Yarmolinsky, recommended the family adopt a more anglicized spelling of their last name. Commoner attended Brooklyn’s James Madison High School, where he discovered his passion for biology. Assisted by his wife, the poet ...

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Coolidge, Albert Sprague (23 January 1894–31 August 1977), chemical physicist, political activist, and civil libertarian, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Frederic Shurtleff Coolidge, an orthopedic surgeon, and Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge. His mother was the daughter of Albert Arnold Sprague, a pioneer merchant of Chicago, which made it possible for Sprague Coolidge to be financially independent. He was directly descended from John Coolidge of Watertown, Massachusetts, who emigrated from England in 1630 and whose farm occupied almost all of what is now Cambridge, Massachusetts. His college preparatory education was at the Hill School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. He graduated summa cum laude with an A.B. from Harvard College in 1915. That year he married Margaret Stewart Coit. They had five children....

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Peter Cooper. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-11083).

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Cooper, Peter (12 February 1791–04 April 1883), inventor, manufacturer, and civic benefactor, was born in New York City, the son of John Cooper and Margaret Campbell. His father was a struggling merchant who moved the family successively to Peekskill, Catskill, and finally Newburgh, New York, in search of financial success. Assisting his father in a series of occupations (hatter, brewer, shopkeeper, and brickmaker), Cooper obtained valuable practical work experience. Given his family’s relative poverty and constant movement, Cooper was only able to obtain a year’s worth of formal schooling; this deficiency in his formal education haunted him throughout his life....

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Gabrielson, Ira Noel (27 September 1889–07 September 1977), wildlife biologist and first director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was born in Sioux Rapids, Iowa, the son of Frank August Gabrielson, a partner in a hardware store and later a farmer, and Ida Jansen. During a boyhood spent hunting, fishing, and exploring the countryside, Gabrielson developed a love of nature, photographed and studied birds, and became particularly interested in waterfowl. He graduated from Morningside College, Sioux City, Iowa, with a B.A. in biology in 1912 and spent the next three years teaching high school biology in Marshalltown, Iowa. Just as he was about to enter the University of Iowa on a graduate fellowship, he was offered and accepted a position he had coveted with the Bureau of Biological Survey....

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Morehead, John Motley (03 November 1870–07 January 1965), electrochemist, diplomat, and philanthropist, was born in Spray (now Eden), North Carolina, the son of James Turner Morehead, a prominent textile manufacturer, and Mary Elizabeth Connally. After preparatory and military school training, he entered the University of North Carolina and graduated with election to Phi Beta Kappa in 1891....

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Poindexter, Hildrus Augustus (10 May 1901–20 April 1987), physician, microbiologist, and public health specialist, was born on a farm near Memphis, Tennessee, the son of Fred Poindexter and Luvenia Gilberta Clarke, tenant farmers. After attending the normal (teacher training) department of Swift Memorial College, a Presbyterian school for blacks in Rogersville, Tennessee (1916–1920), he entered Lincoln University (Pa.) and graduated with an A.B. cum laude in 1924. Also in 1924 he married Ruth Viola Grier, with whom he would have one child, a daughter. He attended Dartmouth Medical School for two years before earning an M.D. at Harvard University in 1929, an A.M. in bacteriology at Columbia University in 1930, a Ph.D. in bacteriology and parasitology at Columbia in 1932, and an M.P.H. from Columbia in 1937....

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Benjamin Rush. Engraving by James Barton Longacreof a painting by Thomas Sully. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-97104 ).

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Rush, Benjamin (04 January 1746–19 April 1813), physician, professor of chemistry and of medicine, and social reformer, was born in Byberry Township, Pennsylvania, thirteen miles northeast of Philadelphia, the son of John Rush, a farmer and gunsmith, and Susanna Hall Harvey. John Rush died when Benjamin was five years old. His mother ran a grocery store to support the family. She sent Benjamin at age eight to live with an uncle by marriage, the Reverend Dr. ...

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Warren, Josiah (c. 1798–14 April 1874), social reformer, inventor, musician, and America's first philosophical anarchist, was born in Boston. The names of his parents are not known, although accounts indicate that he was a distant relative to James Warren, husband of Mercy Otis Warren...